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Nemanja Matic v Harry Winks: The key battle when Man Utd face Tottenham
Last Updated: 27/10/17 8:57pm
Can Tottenham's Harry Winks get the better of Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic on Saturday? We check the stats...
Two of the Premier League's title challengers go head to head live on Sky Sports this weekend, with second-placed Manchester United hosting third-placed Tottenham at Old Trafford.
Spurs have won their last four Premier League games but United have won all four of their Premier League home games without conceding a single goal. Something will have to give on Saturday.
If Spurs are to get a result they will need to win the midfield battle to allow Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen to trouble the United defence.
Injuries to Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama this season have resulted in Spurs giving an opportunity to young midfielder Harry Winks. Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino has great faith in Winks having already started him at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid in the Champions League earlier this month and on Saturday he will face another tough test against a United side marshalled by one of the Premier League's midfield masters.
Nemanja Matic has started all nine Premier League games for United this season and tops the club's rankings for touches, passes and tackles. Matic's role is to break up play, mop up the loose balls and create time and space for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku.
Matic has been so successful in this role so far this season that he leads the way in Premier League ball recoveries (taking possession of a loose ball) for outfield players.
Most ball recoveries by outfield PL players in 2017/18
|Nemanja Matic||Man Utd||80|
Winks' task at Tottenham has been similar to that of Matic at United. Previously Dembele filled this role for Spurs but they have found an able replacement in Winks and no doubt the 21-year-old has been patiently learning his trade from the Belgian.
Having started the last three Premier League games, his only ever run of successive starts in the competition, Winks has begun to establish his position at the heart of the Spurs midfield and won his first senior England cap against Lithuania earlier this month.
By looking at the last three Premier League games of both Matic and Winks, the two have similar totals for tackles and ball recoveries. The Serb has made more touches but as he gains more experience Winks will no doubt see this increase as he demands more of the ball.
Matic and Winks - last three PL games
Another positive aspect of Winks' game is his ball retention. Rather unsurprisingly Dembele has the best passing accuracy of any Spurs player to have made 200 or more passes this season (96.4 per cent) but in third spot, after Davinson Sanchez (93.6 per cent), is Winks at 89.3 per cent.
Needless to say that in his three Premier League starts this season, Winks' passing accuracy has been better than any other Tottenham midfielder and an even more positive trend, for England as well as Spurs, is that nearly 30 per cent of his passes are forward, again more than any other midfielder at the club in the same period.
Only time will tell whether Winks has the same impact in the Premier League as two-time title winner Matic has had over the last few years, but on Saturday he will have to step up once more if he's to come out on top.